Tom Richards' Log - Extract 2|
HMS Charybdis - A Voyage of 4 years and 8 months around the World
November 1860 - June 1865
February 1862 –
Rough passage across North Pacific, Yokohama to Vancouver
A day or two after we left, the wind increased, royals and flying jib were furled - then one reef taken in and topsails close reefed - mainsails furled - and fore-course reefed - boats and guns doubly secured - and storm sails bent. It was well for us the gale increased gradually and gave us time to prepare for it. The wind was generally right aft. but sometimes on the beam and very cold. For some days we were dashing along at the rate of 13, 14 & 15 knots an hour. We lost several sails and two boats. A good deal of our head gear, with several spars, and all bulwarks round the bows were washed away, and most of the nettings, fore & aft. Hammocks were piped down the beginning of the gale and kept down; all hatches battened down. The worst of it was that after a few days we could not cook any food; anything put into the cook's coppers the ship would toss out - biscuits, raw pork, rum & water. The latter was served out night watches as well - every man having to drink his allowance as his name was called & I believe the spirits, in this case, did us good. After coming on deck we would at once be drenched with the sea, and perhaps be washed off our legs. The labouring of the ship had opened most of the seams in the deck, &c allowing the water to go through and wet the hammocks. Many times have I gone below wet through, taken my clothes off, wrung them out and put them back on again, turning into a wet hammock. This sort of thing lasted for about three weeks, and I can tell you I was not the only one who wished himself out of it at this time. It was a grand sight to stand aft and see the ship descend into the trough of the sea - and then seem to take upon herself to mount the great hill of water from the top of which we could see the awfully grand seas for miles. Then down she would go on the other side. Old Bailey, Captain of the Forecastle - the oldest seaman on board the "Charybdis" often used to say, "I never saw such seas in my life!" and I'm sure I never did. I have no doubt you have heard and perhaps read that "the sea ran mountains high". But this is a mistake. Captain Scoresley of the Royal Navy who was a thorough seaman and a man of science tells us he had studied and measured the height of the waves in the Atlantic and found the highest to be forty-three feet. The waves I saw in the North Pacific seemed to be higher than this, but certainly not like mountains.
Two Fridays in one week
We had now arrived at the 180th meridian of longitude which is the highest degree east or west of Greenwich. It happened one Saturday morning - it was my watch below - that Ned Collins my chum and messmate, and boatswain's mate at this time, came on the lower deck and blew a shrill whistle and roared out, "D'ye hear there, fore and aft, today will be Friday!" I will try to explain why this was. In going round the earth towards the east, we gain 24 hours and of course lose the same in going round towards the west. For every 15 degrees we sail towards the east we gain one hour of time, and for every degree, 4 minutes of time, while for 180 degrees will be gained 12 hours; which shows that all places under that meridian have 12 hours difference of time from that in all places under the meridian running through Greenwich, marked '0'. Hitherto we have been running into east longitude, earlier time than Greenwich, but having arrived at the 180th meridian we run into West longitude, later time than Greenwich or another day of the week. Had we not added the day on we would have been a day out on arriving in England. (This is really the earth turning on its axis towards the east at the rate of 15 degrees in one hour - 1 degree in 4 minutes - or 1 mile in 4 seconds).
Passing Aleutian Islands - on lookout for Icebergs
We had now arrived in the longitude of Behring St. - and strict orders were given to the masthead man by day, and the lookouts by night, to keep a sharp lookout for icebergs, but we never saw any. We passed south of the Aleutian Islands but did not sight them.
Remarkable feat of seamanship by Mr. Burleigh - "Charybdis"
At last the wind shifted and the ship laboured very much so it was thought by the Captain that the ship would behave better on the other tack. Mr. Burleigh the 1st Lieutenant was consulted. He said he believed she would ride better, but the question was, would she stand being turned round in such a sea. She would if properly managed, but who was to do it? Mr. Burleigh was very ill, and had been for some time. Well Mr. B. did it! I well remember his crossing the deck covered with wraps. He called all the officers round him and gave instructions what to do at certain times. He had all the midshipmen round him to run messages. He then took his place on the scotchman of a gun the port side of the deck. From there he gave the orders and wore the ship round splendidly! She shipped but very little water. Often afterwards did some of the ship's company speak of this feat of seamanship of Mr. Burleigh's. So onward we went again mounting the hills of water and down again into the valleys. I often think of the 107th Psalm where it says, "They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end." Well we were nearly at our wit's end.
One day a rather serious thing happened. The port hawse plug was driven inward by the sea. This plug is a piece of wood about 5 feet long and about 15 or 16 inches in diameter and fits into the hawse pipe in the bows where the cables run out. In the "Charybdis" this happened to be on the lower deck. On the outside of the hawse pipe is a circular piece of wood with a ring in the middle named a buckler. This was washed away and the plug forced in. So every time the ship dived into the sea, many tons of the sea would force it's way in, sweeping everything before it. Crowds of us ran for hammocks, spars &c, to ram into the hole, but for some time the sea would come in and wash men, hammocks &c, away aft like a lot of rags. The Captain came forward pale and haggard, he was quite so badly off as any of us - everything wet through. At last we managed to plug it and make everything secure, but there was a great deal of water in the ship. This sort of weather lasted till we got somewhere about 300 miles from Vancouver and when we arrived to within 100 or 150 miles, it became a calm. Previous to this we had bent top-gallant sails and royals and flying jib, unbent storm sails and put things right and square - generally sent up top-gallant mast and crossed upper yards.
Presenting a sorry spectacle on arriving at Vancouver
Just at this time the "Charybdis" must have presented a very singular appearance. She was covered with wet clothes and bedding almost from the water's edge. Every available spot was occupied for the purpose of drying. The appearance of the ship's company must have been just as strange. They had not washed or shaved for about 3 weeks. I expect we looked no better than a lot of pirates - for in those days British sailors were not allowed to grow a beard or moustache.
On 23rd March 1862 we got up steam and steamed into Esquimalt, a very snug little harbour almost landlocked and is about 3 miles from Victoria - the chief town of Vancouver Island. This island was discovered by Captain Cook and thought to be part of the mainland. A few years afterwards it was discovered to be an island by Captain Vancouver who had been a midshipman with Captain Cook. It is a beautiful island with climate and vegetation very like the south of England. It is about 275 miles long with an average of 50 miles broad. We found four British ships of war here - two frigates and two gunboats - H.M.S. "Bachantte" flagship of Admiral Sir Thos. Maitland who was afterwards Earl of Lauderdale; the "Topaz". The two gunboats were "Grappler" and "Forward".
After we had got the ship in proper order , painted her &c, we were inspected by the Admiral.
© Copyright Andy Anderson December 2003
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